London '12 best chance for Saina: Hartono

The eight-time All-England men’s singles champion, who is back in India after four decades, said although Saina is a very good stroke-player, that alone would not fetch her an Olympic gold or world championship title.

“I have seen Saina Nehwal play. She is a good stroke player but that alone is not enough to become a world champion. She needs to work hard on her fitness. Its no good only to impress with your stroke-play, but you need to finish off points,” Hartono told reporters at the National Sports Club of India on Monday.

NSCI, which is building a modern indoor stadium at its premises in Worli, felicitated the shuttler who revolutionised the way the game was played with his all-out aggression in the 1960s.

Hartono, who won seven All-England titles in-a-row between 1968 and 1974, which was then considered the unofficial world championship, went on to win the official world crown too in 1980 aged 31.

“Saina has this year and the next, which is the year of the Olympics, for the big one. A badminton player is at his or her peak between the ages of 20 and 26. She needs to prepare herself very well by training hard for the big events,” said the 61-year-old shuttle great.

“Next year is the Olympic Games and if she misses the bus, then by the time the next one comes she would be 27,” he pointed out.

Training hard
Hartono, who was honoured with a silver plaque for lifetime achievement, along with Indian legend Prakash Padukone, said Saina has shown she has the ability to beat the Chinese. He recalled the way he used to train, a fact endorsed by Prakash sitting beside him on the dais, by saying he used to run daily for 10 kms and use the skipping rope for one hour at least.

Prakash, who said Hartono is the best-ever player in the history of the shuttle game, said it was an eye-opener when he got the opportunity to play against the Indonesian great in 1970 when he was still a junior.

“I got the opportunity to play against Rudy in 1970 as a junior national champion at the Bombay Gymkhana’s invitation tournament. I was beaten 5 and 3 but it was an eye-opener as till that time I was a defensive player. I realised then that I needed to not only be more aggressive but far more fit too,” said Prakash.

“I then got a chance to see him train before the Central India final immediately afterwards. He used the skipping rope for one hour non-stop and would have done more if he was not to play the final later.”

The Indian great said the six-week training stint in the Sanayan complex in Jakarta that he had along with the late Syed Modi with the Indonesian national team in 1976 showed him the way forward on how to train for a competition.

“Rudy is the greatest badminton player the world has produced. I learnt a lot by watching him play and by playing against him.

Hartono said that three things made one a champion -- discipline, focus and persevererence. “Discipline means for example getting up at the same time like 5 am and going for a run. I started doing it at the age of 8 when my father motivated me to become a world champion,” he said.

Hartono said even in training it was important to practice as if one was playing in a competitive match. “It’s no use taking training lightly. You have to practice as if you are playing in a match. Otherwise you cannot become No 1. For a major tournament you need to prepare three months in advance. Preparing for one or two months is not enough,” he said.

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